Victoria Falls, Boyomo Falls, Niagara Falls, and Iguazú Falls are some of the world’s greatest waterfalls. But, many people may not realize that some of the world’s largest waterfalls exist underwater, hidden from the public’s eye.
The largeness of a waterfall can be difficult to determine. Waterfalls can be judged by their width, height, volume, and flow rate, to name a few. Victoria Falls is widely regarded to be the largest waterfall due to its expansive width and height. However, that is only on land.
Scientists have found that the biggest underwater waterfalls are located beneath the Denmark Strait. These falls are approximately 3,500 meters tall, more than three times the height of Angel Falls, the tallest land-based waterfalls. These falls also flow at an estimated flow of 5 million cubic meters per second. In comparison, Niagara Falls flows at only 2,407 cubic meters per second. These underwater falls were discovered as early as the 1870s; however, there were little studies done. Finally, in the 1960s, modern equipment made further studies possible. Since then, about 6 other ocean cataracts have been located in the Atlantic Ocean.
Ocean cataracts are driven by changing temperatures and differences in salinity between two bodies of water. For example, water in the Mediterranean Sea is much denser than water in the Atlantic Ocean. This increased density causes water flowing out of the Mediterranean to sink into the Atlantic, forming a cataract. Ocean cataracts help maintain the salinity and climate of the oceans. It also plays a role in marine behavior. For example, krill are found in the South Shetland Islands, near Antarctica. Biologists believe that after the eggs are laid, an underwater cataract carries them hundreds of kilometers westward. After hatching, the larvae rise and are carried back to their spawning grounds by other ocean currents.
A common misconception about waterfalls is that they only exist on land. Underwater cataracts are an important part of the ocean’s environment and marine biology. Despite there being no official method to measure how big a waterfall is, it is safe to say that the world’s largest waterfalls are those hidden from our view.
[Source: Amusing Planet]